In Roberto Mancini, the Saudi Arabian national team is getting a serial winner. Nine domestic cups, four league titles and a Euros win during his managerial career so far are evidence of that. But can the Italian inspire the team to glory? And what will success look like?
Will it be Asian Cup glory?
The new manager will take charge of his first competitive games in World Cup qualifiers coming up in November. Qualification for the tournament, which will be co-hosted by the USA, Canada and Mexico, is expected with so much funding being put into developing the sport in Saudi Arabia.
More immediately, there is the small matter of the AFC Asian Cup in January. The tournament will be hosted by holders Qatar – another nation making strides in the football world. The Asian Cup is a tournament in which Saudi Arabia has a decent pedigree.
The nation’s record of three wins is bettered only by Japan who have won it four times. The Japanese will be up there as one of the favorites again, along with the likes of South Korea and Qatar. But with the eyes of the footballing world on Saudi Arabia right now, and Roberto Mancini in the hot seat, punters who like a sports bet may fancy the team to grab their fourth title.
Style of play
Roberto Mancini’s style of play wasn’t always popular with the British press during his time at the Etihad. He was criticized in some quarters for being too defensive and leaning towards the ‘catenaccio‘ style of play associated with Italian teams.
Mancini himself always maintained that his teams were more likely to win if they didn’t concede goals – especially given the array of attacking talent he had at his disposal at Manchester City. But more than his style of play, it can be argued that what he brought to City was a winning mentality.
It was almost four years after the club was bought out by the Abu Dhabi United Group that City won their first Premier League title. And they haven’t looked back since. If he can instill that same mentality in the Saudi players, maybe they can knock their ‘noisy neighbors’ from Qatar off their perch.
Mancini on the world stage
While Mancini’s style of play domestically came in for some criticism, when he took charge of Italy, he adopted a more attacking style than fans were used to. With the country no longer the footballing powerhouse it had once been at the time, this was a sensible decision. The manager made the best use of the players at his disposal and won the 2020 Euros, beating England at Wembley. Mancini achieved a win rate of 60.66% during his five-year tenure.
However, he failed to take the team to the 2022 World Cup. Nobody expects Saudi Arabia to win the World Cup in 2026. But with a high-profile manager like Roberto Mancini, the world is anticipating a side that is organized, hard to beat and able to establish itself on the world stage. And there’s no better way to start than by winning the Asian Cup.
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